Last October, Bill Belichick called Chris Board the best special teams player the New England Patriots would see during the 2022 NFL season.
He’ll be seeing a lot more of him now.
The Patriots and the free agent linebacker agreed to terms Friday on a two-year contract worth up to $6.7 million, according to a report from NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero.
Board, as Belichick noted, is one of the NFL’s premier special teamers, logging more than 290 snaps in the kicking game in each of his five pro seasons. Despite a stellar season from rookie return man Marcus Jones, the Patriots struggled in the kicking game in 2022, ranking last in Football Outsiders’ special teams DVOA and allowing a league-high three kick-return touchdowns.
Board isn’t a Matthew Slater-esque special teams-only player, though. The 27-year-old also played 160 snaps on defense for the Detroit Lions this past season and more than 600 over his final two years with the Baltimore Ravens.
“Board, that’s the best special teams player we’ll play against all year,” Belichick said, unprompted, in the leadup to New England’s Week 5 win over Detroit. “He’s great. A great player.”
(Belichick also called Lions punter Jack Fox a “weapon” during that same news conference.)
Listed at 6-foot-2, 229 pounds, Board played his college ball at North Dakota State and was teammates with Matthew Judon in Baltimore, which signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2018.
Board, who visited the Patriots on Thursday, is the first external defensive free agent to reach a contract agreement with the team this offseason. Their first five outside signings all were offensive players: wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, running back James Robinson, tight end Mike Gesicki and offensive tackles Riley Reiff and Calvin Anderson.
The Patriots have re-signed most of their internal free agents on defense, including depth linebackers Mack Wilson and Raekwon McMillan.